Dear Friend of the First Amendment,
In February, we honored retired federal judge Nancy Gertner with our annual Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award. Gertner spoke about the need for transparency within government and reminded those at our awards luncheon that “it is critical that we do something.”
It is critical that we do something.
Throughout New England citizens and journalists fight for access to information about their government. Within the last six months alone, there have been FOI battles in each state. They include:
- A Maine judge barred the reporting of testimony given in an open courtroom.
- Rulings in Massachusetts gave police chiefs the power to withhold information related to wrongdoing in their own departments.
- New Hampshire legislators proposed charging public record requesters for the time it takes to fulfill their request.
- A federal judge in Rhode Island closed her courtroom to the public without any reason given.
- Legislators in Vermont proposed short-sighted changes to the state’s open meeting law.
- In Connecticut, police records are being withheld following a disastrous state Supreme Court ruling.
So, in the spirit of Judge Gertner’s remarks, we must do something.
This is what NEFAC is doing:
- In Maine, we helped sound the alarm when the judge imposed a prior restraint and applied public pressure.
- We testified on Beacon Hill about the need for public records reform in Massachusetts.
- In New Hampshire, we rallied to help defeat House Bill 646.
- When news broke that a federal courtroom in Rhode Island had been sealed, we were quoted in the Providence Journal the next day demanding access.
- In Vermont, we wrote an opinion piece calling the open meeting law changes a “giant step backward.”
- We wrote to legislators in Connecticut insisting they pass House Bill 6750.
Now we are preparing for our fifth annual New England First Amendment Institute, a three-day intensive investigative journalism workshop. Twenty-five journalism fellows will attend at no cost. Our volunteer faculty has included Pulitzer Prize winners Carol Leonnig of The Washington Post and Mike Rezendes of The Boston Globe, Emmy Award winner Anna Schecter of NBC and award-winning “Frontline” producer Michael Kirk. You can learn more about this year’s institute, to be held from Oct. 18-20, at www.nefirstamendment.org/nefai-2015.
Please help us continue to fight for our First Amendment rights and our access to public information. Democracy depends on an informed citizenry and a vigorous press. We’re working every day to help maintain both. But we need your support. Please consider a contribution to the New England First Amendment Coalition. You can donate here.
In Judge Gertner’s words, it is critical that we do something. With your help, we can.
NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.
Our coalition is funded through contributions made by those who value the First Amendment and who strive to keep government accountable. Donations can be made here. Major Supporters of NEFAC for this year include: The Robertson Foundation, The Providence Journal Charitable Foundation, The Boston Globe and Boston University.